The retired archbishop of Hanoi, Cardinal Paul Joseph Pham Dinh Tung, who endured years of house arrest under the Vietnamese Communist regime, passed away on Saturday at the age of 89.
Cardinal Tung was born on June 15, 1919 in Bình-Hòa, Vietnam. At the age of 29 he was ordained to the priesthood and was made the Bishop of Bac Ninh on April 5, 1963. On March 23, 1994 he became the archbishop of Hanoi, a post he kept until he resigned in February 2005.
During more than 25 of the years he served as bishop of Bac Ninh, Cardinal Pham Dinh Tung was placed under house arrest and prevented from visiting the 100 different parishes under his care.
Determined to spread the Gospel despite his circumstances, he dedicated himself to telling the story of the Jesus’ life and ministry, Church teachings, the 10 Commandments and explaining the Sacraments in a type of poem called "luc bat." The six to eight word stanzas enabled the faithful to easily learn the faith.
Cardinal Pham Dinh Tung also created a system for the faithful to maintain parish life in his absence and founded a school to train children as catechists. The school already has 200 graduates who have returned to all parts of Vietnam.
Upon learning of the cardinal’s death, Pope Benedict sent a telegram to the current Archbishop of Hanoi expressing his "great sadness" and ensuring the Church and the cardinal’s family of his prayers.
"With great sadness I learned the news of the death of Cardinal Paul Joseph Pham Dinh Tung, archbishop emeritus of Hanoi and your predecessor, and I wish to express my fervent union in prayer with all the bishops of Vietnam, with the faithful of the archdiocese of Hanoi and the rest of the country, with the family of the late cardinal, and with all people affected by this loss," wrote the Pope.
"I ask God the Father, from Whom all mercy comes, to welcome into His peace and light this eminent pastor who, through difficult circumstances, was able to serve the Church with great courage and generous loyalty to the See of Peter, tirelessly dedicating himself to the announcement of the Gospel. To you, to your auxiliary, to the bishops of Vietnam, to priests and religious, to the faithful of the archdiocese of Hanoi, as well as to the relatives of the late cardinal and everyone participating in the funerary rites, I impart a heartfelt apostolic blessing."